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Receive Him Once but Affirm Him in Thousands of Ways
All the passages below are taken from Elisabeth Elliot’s book “A Path Through Suffering.” It was published in 1990.
Botanists say that across the leaf-stalk there forms in autumn a layer of thin-walled cells, termed "the layer of separation. These press and tear the older cells apart, and become disintegrated in their turn, till without an effort the leaf detaches with a severance clean and sharp as though made by a knife. The plant sentences the leaf to death, and the winds of God carry out the sentence.
IN OLD TESTAMENT TIMES suffering was seen as evil. In the New Testament, suffering and evil are no longer identical. Think of the shock the crowds must have felt when Jesus said that those who mourn, those who are poor and persecuted and have nothing are happy! How could He say such things? Only in light of another kingdom, another world, another way of seeing this world. He came to bring life---another kind of life altogether. And it is in terms of that life that we must learn to look at our sufferings. I have found it possible, when I see suffering from that perspective, wholeheartedly to accept it. But it takes a steady fixing of my gaze on the cross.
If the cross is the place where the worst thing that could happen happened, it is also the place where the best thing that could happen happened. Ultimate hatred and ultimate love met on those two crosspieces of wood. Suffering and love were brought into harmony.
It was while we were still powerless to help ourselves that Jesus died for us. It is a rare thing, as Paul points out, for anybody to die even for a good man, "but Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, and that is God's own proof of his love towards us. And so, since we have now been justified by Christ's sacrificial death, we shall all the more certainly be saved through him from final retribution" (Romans 5:8-9 NEB).
To be "saved" requires a severance from the former life as clean and sharp as though made by a knife. There must be a wall of separation between the old life and the new, a radical break. That means death---death to the old life, in order for the new to begin. "We know that the man we once were has been crucified with Christ, for the destruction of the sinful self, so that we may no longer be the slaves of sin, since a dead man is no longer answerable for his sin" (Romans 6:6-7 NEB).
This wall of separation, this barrier, is the cross.
From earliest memory I understood that everybody ought to love Jesus. Then I began to hear that everybody ought to "receive the Lord Jesus Christ as his own personal Savior." To the best of my understanding that is what I wanted to do, so I did it---I asked Him to come into my heart, as I was instructed to do. It was a once-for-all decision, and I believe He accepted the invitation and came in. So far so good. I was told that I was now "saved," saved by grace. That was a gift, a free gift, from God. Amazing. Simply amazing that the Lord of the Universe, the One who is "the ruler over all authorities and the supreme head over all powers" (Colossians 2:10, JBP), "the blessed controller of all things, the king over all kings and the master of all masters, the only source of immortality, the One who lives in unapproachable light, the One whom no mortal eye has ever seen or ever can see" (1 Timothy 6:15-16, JBP)---amazing that the same One bends His ear to the prayer of a child or of a sinner of any age and, if asked, comes in and makes His home with us. For His name is Immanuel, God with us.
How shall He be at home with us unless our lives are in harmony with His holy life? Unless He lives His very life in us and we live our lives "in company with Him'? Salvation means rescue from the pit of destruction, from the miry clay of ourselves.
So my decision to receive Him, although made only once, I must affirm in thousands of ways, through thousands of choices, for the rest of my life---my will or His, my life (the old one) or His (the new one). It is no to myself and yes to Him. This continual affirmation is usually made in small things, inconveniences, unselfish giving up of preferences, yielding gracefully to the wishes of others without playing the martyr, learning to close doors quietly and turn the volume down on the music we'd love to play loudly---sufferings they may be, but only small-sized ones. We may think of them as little "deaths."
Many who come to Christ have a long, sinful, and destructive past. The "layer of separation," the cross, stands now between us and our past. We have to make up our minds to part company with it, not by struggle but by an honest act of renouncing it in the name of Christ. Sin no longer holds authority, "exacting obedience to the body's desires. You must no longer put its several parts at sin's disposal, as implements for doing wrong. No: put yourselves at the disposal of God, as dead men raised to life; yield your bodies to him as implements for doing right; for sin shall no longer be your master, because you are no longer under law, but under the grace of God" (Romans 6:12-14 NEB).
When Satan the accuser scorns that act of renunciation later and taunts---"Hypocrite! You didn't mean it! You never really put yourself at His disposal or parted company with us at all!"---run to the foot of the cross, our safe shelter and abiding place.
The further we travel on this pathway to glory the more glorious it becomes, because we are given to understand that every glad surrender of self, which to the young Christian may seem such a morbid and odious thing, is merely a little death, like the tree's "loss" of the dead leaf, in order that a fresh new one may, in God's time, take its place. (25-28)
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